Do Saunas Dry Out Your Eyes? (And What To Do About It!)

Saunas are a popular recreational activity after a heavy workout or a tiring day. These are specially built facilities where you can experience a dry or wet session for relaxation. There is one question that potential sauna goers have: do saunas dry out your eyes?

Saunas do dry out your eyes. They have high temperatures and varying humidity levels, which can lead to aggressive water loss from the body, including your eyes. This can lead to eye irritation and infection.

The article discusses sauna baths, their effect on your eyes, and the dos-and-don’ts while going to a sauna bath.

Saunas: An Overview

A sauna is a sudatorium where people go for artificial sweating. It is usually a small room designed for undergoing dry or wet heating. The high heat makes the sauna goers lose water from their bodies and sweat. The different types of saunas are dry, wet, infrared, steam, and smoke.

In earlier days, saunas were made by heating stones and throwing water on them. Steam was produced, and it gave a comforting feeling through increased heat. It increased the temperature and made people sweat.

The stones were heated by burning wood for 6 to 8 hours. Water was poured over them to create the sauna environment. A properly heated traditional sauna gives heat up to 12 hours.

Saunas originally started in Finland. They have also been found in other parts of the world. Structures in Greenland and Newfoundland indicated that saunas existed in these regions as well. Areas with Nordic activities, including Orkney Island in Scotland, have bathing structures that showed systems involving fire and water.

Sauna-like structures existed in ancient Rome as well. They were known as a thermae or a balneae. In Turkey and the Arab world, they were known as a hammam.

The presence of sauna baths has also been recorded in Aztec and Mayan civilizations. The Native Americans had spiritual sweat lodges. In the European region, it was said to have been present in Estonian, Latvian and Russian cultures.

In Asia, saunas were a part of the Japanese and Korean lifestyle. The advent of the industrial revolution brought about the use of a stove with chimneys. Temperatures inside the saunas went up between the range of 75-100ºC or 167-212ºF. It also reached 110ºC or 230ºF.

Saunas initially developed in Finland, and slowly became popular across the world. Tampere, the second largest city of Finland, is considered to be the Sauna Capital of the World.

Why Do Saunas Dry Out Your Eyes?

Saunas are known to dry out our eyes. Every sauna goer would have experienced this problem some time or the other. In fact this problem is a deterrent for several new sauna participants. Let’s try to understand the cause of this problem.

Saunas have high heat and dry atmosphere (low humidity). Our eye fluids tend to dry out due to the high heat and lesser humidity inside a sauna room. A prolonged stay in the sauna may cause irritation or infection. This is because dry eyes are more prone to bacteria and other microorganisms.

Also, sweat from the eyebrows and eyelids can cause eye irritation over time.

Tips on Treating Dry Eyes in the Sauna

In case you feel that your eyes dry out in the sauna, it is best to consult your eye specialist. At the same time, you can try to follow these tips. They are sure to make a difference in the situation.

  • Cover your face with a wet towel. This will reduce the drying of your eyes and help absorb excess sweat at the same time.
  • Close your eyes. In case of irritation, sit down and close your eyes. This will help stop the water loss in your eyes by keeping the moisture locked in.
  • Take a wash before entering a sauna. Washing yourself before entering a sauna increases your body’s overall moisture content and can let you stay in the sauna longer without drying out.
  • Drink a lot of water before entering a sauna. It increases the water content in your body. Since sauna induces sweating, the extra water in your body can compensate for it.
  • Use prescribed eye drops. If your eyes dry out in a sauna, consult your doctor and use eye drops before and after to ease the problem.

General Precautions When Using Saunas

  • Avoid drinking alcohol before and after sauna use. Alcohol consumption causes dehydration, arrhythmia, hypotension, or sudden death. Hence, avoid drinking alcohol before and after going to a sauna.
  • Monitor time spent in the sauna. Do not spend a lot of time inside a sauna. First-timers can spend up to 5–10 minutes, and slowly increase up to 20 minutes.
  • Avoid using a sauna if you are ill. Do not use the sauna if you are sick because excess temperatures can stress your immune system at a time that it’s already being taxed.
  • Oversee children in a sauna. Saunas are safe for children over six years. However, keep an eye on them inside the sauna in case they get uncomfortable as they might not understand the changes their bodies are going through.
  • Do not go to the sauna with a blood pressure problem. Saunas can cause blood pressure to fluctuate. Consult a doctor before going to the sauna if you have any pre-existing conditions.

Types of Saunas

There are several types of saunas with different heating sources, namely:

  • Electricity
  • Wood
  • Gas
  • Solar power.

They also can use two types of stoves. The first is continuous heating stoves, which have a smaller heating capacity that can be heated quickly. The other is storage stoves, which have a larger heating capacity that takes longer to heat up.

Smoke Sauna

In this type of sauna, the rocks inside the room are heated with wood underneath. After some time, the fire is extinguished. The heat from the fire increases the room temperature. Since the room does not have a chimney, soot is deposited on the room’s inner walls and furniture. The temperature in this sauna reaches up to 60ºC or 140ºF.

Traditional smoke saunas are less used today. In its improved version, the rocks and the fire pit below are sealed in the room. A metal or stone slab on ensures a smokeless sauna. The stones glow red or even turn white. The heating reaches 80-110°C or 176-230°F, peridotite rocks used in some saunas are heat resistant.

Smoke saunas are categorized as heat-storing saunas.

Continuous Fire Sauna

The continuous fire sauna has a firebox with stones kept directly above it. The smoke escapes from a chimney and takes less time to heat up, typically an hour. It needs maintenance in terms of keeping the fire alive. The fire can be a safety hazard.

Electric Stove Sauna

In an electric stove sauna, the stones are heated through electric heating elements. The temperature and duration of heating are controlled using a thermostat and timer.

This type of sauna is preferred in smaller urban locations.

Infrared Saunas

At infrared saunas, instead of the room, the body parts of the people inside the room are heated using infrared beams. It is modern technology and not considered as a sauna by many experts. Infrared saunas use infrared beams to heat people’s body parts.

Conclusion

Saunas work by heating rocks in a closed room, which increases the temperature. Though saunas have their benefits, they can create eye trouble. Sauna rooms can cause our eyes to dry out due to the high temperature and no air circulation. Dry eyes are more vulnerable to a bacteria attack. The sweat on our faces can also irritate our eyes.

There are various precautions to take if we experience this problem, like closing our eyes while in a sauna, using a moist towel to cover our face, or administering the prescribed eye drops. Also, remember to visit your doctor if you feel the problem is continually irritating your eyes.

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